Update on activities
The aim of the Society is not to initiate activities – although we may do that from time to time – but to facilitate exchange of information and to help people collaborate in matters of mutual concern across the borough. These notes detail some of the issues and projects that members of the Hastings & St Leonards Society core team have been involved with in the recent past. We all recognise how much time, effort and commitment such activities entail. We are keen to know of other initiatives we may have overlooked or of information which augments our own knowledge. There is always a lot going on in the various Hastings and St Leonards voluntary bodies that contributes to recognition of the town’s notable heritage and helps to promote it.
Old Bathing Pool site – West Marina
The issue of the future of the site and its possible development continues. The West St Leonards Forum remains active in this and other matters [a further note is awaited and we will bring this to you as soon as possible]. The Forum has also established a Neighbourhood Plan and recently instigated a survey of West St Leonards residents in order to understand their concerns and to help establish priorities for action.
The council has put the Neighbourhood Plan out for consultation:
The consultation period runs until 23 February. We urge everyone to support the proposal.
West Marina Gardens
Substantial progress has been made by the Friends of Edith (FoE – see below) on the preservation of the Wilke statue of Harold and Edith and the planting of flower beds in West Marina Gardens. The nearby pub, the Marina Fountain, has been very supportive and has become effectively the premises of the FoE. A number of fund-raising events have been held there.
St Leonards Parish Church and the Burton tomb
A ‘stakeholders’ group was set up early last year to try to take forward matters concerning possible uses to which the now disused church might be put and whether it might form a community asset under some kind of charitable organisation. The issues are formidable, particularly as much of the surrounding land up as far as West Hill Road is subject to slippage. The Burton tomb and cemetery and the adjacent footpath have been closed to the public for some while. Historic England have listed the Adrian Gilbert Scott church and the Burton tomb as having ‘group value’. The ‘stakeholders’ group is now forming itself into a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), which will work in conjunction with the Burtons’ St Leonards Society. The aim of the CIO (St Leonards Church Charitable Trust) will be:
“To protect, renovate, preserve and maintain for the benefit of the community the disused Grade II listed St Leonards Parish Church and its surrounds, including the listed Burton family tomb.”
A number of relevant events were held during this year’s Hastings Week. Pre-eminent among them was the Edith Festival, a whole day event commemorating the life and work of Edith Swanneck, the handfasted wife of Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. Edith was one of the most landed and important women in the England of her time. In addition to a talk on the Wilke statue of Harold and Edith in West Marina Gardens, a conference was held at the White Rock Hotel with contributions by several noted historians of the Anglo-Saxon period and a talk by Kevin Boorman, Major Projects manager for Hastings Borough Council, on proposals for the ‘rejuvenation’ of the castle and its site on the West Hill. Heather Leech performed her acclaimed one-woman play, Githa, based on King Harold’s mother after the death of her son. The day was filmed and sound-recorded and excerpts now appear on the Friends of Edith Youtube channel. It is hoped that a larger scale event will take place next summer. Please go the Friends’ website for more detail:
The Burtons’ St Leonards Society
The Society has undergone significant changes last year, its premises at South Lodge having been put up for sale by the borough council. The Society has made alternative arrangements for the storage of its archival and exhibition material and is working toward the gradual digitalisation of much of this material. It is also developing more resources related to the social history of St Leonards and carrying out extensive improvements to its website. This is an extensive and long-term project. It continues to put on its periodic series of highly informative talks, and deals with an ever-increasing number of public enquiries.
St Anne’s Church Hollington
Just one example of the work of the Burtons’ Society among other organisations – Hastings Local History Group being one (https://historymap.info/Hastings_Local_History_Group) – has been the effort to stop this attractive church from being demolished. Unfortunately, Hastings Borough Council snatched defeat from the jaws of its own success as this report in the Hastings Online Times shows:
St Mary in the Castle
This magnificent late Georgian venue (Grade II* listed) is once again closed and its future use uncertain. It has had a bumpy ride since, some years ago, it began a new and at first very promising existence under the old Friends of St Mary in the Castle (Fosmic). This continued under the successor organisation (after an interval), St Mary in the Castle Friends, but attempts to operate it independently eventually ran into the ground. There has been no financial support from Hastings Borough Council.
A similar fate has befallen Polo Piatti’s OPUS Theatre in the Grade II listed United Reformed Church in Robertson Street/Cambridge Road, in which a number of memorable concerts took place and which had latterly provided a local residence for the London Mozart Players.
We’ll try to keep you up-to-date on developments in all these cases.
We’ll be introducing new links on this website very soon. Please keep an eye on it.
Dr Chris Joyce – Vice-Chair